Apologies for the lack of a Newsletter in August, I have had a lot to do this year and so I am merging the August and September issues together here.
As we are in lockdown all of our meetings will be online until further notice. I hope you are all keeping safe and well and will be able to join us online. Contact Gareth ( or to firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you don't think you are on our meeting list of participants for online meetings as he is sending out the links prior to each meeting. We shall still meet on the third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m.
It has been a while since we looked at Home automation and IoT, so this meeting should give quite an update on the latest developments and with the production of the RPi 4 there is now a really fast controller available at a reasonable price. There are plenty of hardware projects which can be built and they can be "always on" without high heat generation or power consumption. Projects like media servers, heating control, media servers, alarm systems to name a few. If anyone has actually put these to good use at home perhaps they would like to talk about it at the next meeting. The PI Hut is a good starting point for purchasing the hardware and software. This should be an interesting meeting.
This meeting reviewed the use of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) which are set up in one of the RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations.
This is quite a complex subject but gave rise to quite a lively meeting and many useful comments and experiences were aired. Peter was probably the one who asked most questions as he is considering which NAS to purchase. (still!). system. There are several suppliers on the market and the most notable of these are Synology and QNAP. He had read a review comparing the the two makes and he had favoured the Synology as it seemed you needed to get less into the nuts and bolts of the system. Also Synology had a system called Hybrid RAID which allowed you to have drives of different sizes make more use of the larger drive. The QNAP system would only allow you to use 4TB of an 8TB drive if your other drives were drives were 4TB. Another thing which was brought up which I had not realised, although it is probably obvious to all of you with drives, was that you must choose the RAID configuration from the start and if you want to change it later you must backup the NAS somewhere else and rebuild it and then restore. This could be quite a long winded operation if there is a lot of data to handle (perhaps taking days!).
One thing he picked up on quickly was the fact that several members have more than one NAS or are considering buying another. Sometimes because the first NAS was not very large capacity and is now being used as a backing store for a security camera or a media server, but often because people have run out of space and as with all modern technology there are always faster and improved systems on the market. Improving on just backing up to an external hard drive the simplest systems is to have just two drive bays and can only be set up as a mirror system (RAID 1). You can actually run with only 1 drive but this gives no redundancy (RAID) , Michael did this for a security camera backing store.
The NAS consists of an enclosure with associated software, memory and operating system and a set of drive bays. The enclosure is usually hard wired to the Internet Hub and computers are also hard wired to it.
It is important to try and keep to the same type of drive and allow 10% for formatting. So 8TB x 4 drives gives 21.4TB of usable space for RAID 5 (1 drive redundancy).
Steve said he thought there was a write hole where you can lose data with RAID 5. If writing and a drive fails then it does not know which drive is correct. ADMDM ( Advances in Data Mining and Database Management (Ed. a book) can help Steve said. RAID 6 does not have the write hole however you only get 50% before format ( 2 drive redundancy) , i.e. 16TB-10% = 14.4 TB left. This seems to be a harsh penalty for a rare event. RAID 6 is also slower as more parity writing goes on. He also considered it best to buy drives from different manufactured batches so that they don't all fail simultaneously. You need to have drives which are suited to NAS use. Drives can also power down when not busy to save power. It takes Duncan's drive 30 secs to power up again.
You may or not have WiFi Access. Usually connection is either to the router or direct to the NAS with wired Ethernet. Duncan's also has an HDMI on the back. He could connect to his TV and also had used a tablet to play to his TV. And SSD can be used in the NAS for improved buffering.
Michael showed his screens from his Synology system DS116 for his surveillance camera with a fairly full disk. (RAID 0 2TB WD Red). He could add extra memory too. You can set up schedules and also allowed access to his camera settings including whether to detect motion. The screen has a useful resource monitor. You get two free licences with the NAS ( The licence is actually for the motion detection software). You can buy more licences if you need more cameras in batches of 2 , 4 and 8. About £50 per camera. Steve said you can get Linux software called Motion which was very good. Cloud Sync is useful to backup your NAS to the Cloud.
Peter had looked at the free Demo software and Photo Recognition software. GPT3 software writes software and poetry. Scary open AI.
Michael said that there were lots of Apps which could be run on the NAS.
You can have your own Video and Audio Libraries.
Peter said one thing he needed to do was save RISC OS files and Duncan mentioned Safestore 2 from R-Comp £39 (or from plingstore www.plingstore.org.uk ) on RISCOS for using with a NAS so it can schedule and set up software for backing up including location. Duncan uses Sunfish and Moonfish. Paul said that Lanman98 does not work now with Windows 10 because MS have modified the SMB files (SMB2) msf files. Paul had used Sunfish and Moonfish from Packman to copy from RISC OS.
Models are named with the number of bays and the first year of manufacture.
e.g. Michael's DS116 is a single bay 2016 drive.
Gareth showed his QNAP system main screen with a Quad core AMD CPU with
Radeon Graphics 2X16GB RAM. He had several thick volumes running RAID 6. He also had some M2.SSDs. You can add a cache SSD. You can mount your cloud storage to the NAS. You can link Dropbox to the NAS. There were many complex ways in which the NAS can be used including a Virtualisation Station and a VM Market place. Gareth showed an Ubuntu installation VM on his NAS, which worked quite well. Again similar to the Synology there are many Apps and all your media files that can be installed. For many people a media server is their main use of their NAS.
It seems best to buy the drives separately. Peter favoured the Seagate Ironwolf drives rather than WD Red. You can run Synology software on a 4 bay Microserver. You can these days produce a Raspberry Pi version. There are YouTube videos available showing this. Michael suggested buying external drives and removed the drives from them. But you need to be careful to get suitable drives. Michael was offered 12TB WD Red for about £385 but buying external drives with 12TB WD Red installed cost £180 from Amazon.
At the end one has to screw all the drives in and download the software too before doing a special format for the drives.
It is better to site the NAS close to the machines needing backup so better to extend the Ethernet network from the Hub/router.
Our usual social evening was impossible to arrange this year because of Covid-19 restrictions and so Peter decided, somewhat at the last minute, to see if anyone wanted an online chat instead. Gareth was unavailable too, but kindly set up the Jitsi meeting room. This was only attended by Duncan, Peter and Paul.
Conversations ranged over wood filler for repairing windows. Reminiscing about Vintage ARM computers used in BBC TV programmes for the graphics. Duncan had received scanned copies of Acorn User on disk but had not checked them yet. Also the use of View , Impression and Interword. Peter liked doing the programming competitions in Acorn User in particular counting to 1 million in ARM code and solving a 5x5 word puzzle with which ended up running all night to get a solution on a BBC B. Quite fun. Duncan liked mandelbrot generators.
Peter liked the flight simulator which he never managed to handle. There was also one Duncan thought called Signal box trying to control a station. Peter always ended up crashing trains with this one! Good games in those days.
Paul joined us later and reminisced on his school days and how he was very good at maths and also became the first to pass computer studies at Copleston. Three people took the exam but Paul was the only one to Pass.
Paul had a new keyboard and it now has a command key which could be set as a "menu" key for RISC OS. Duncan said RISC OS was good at special characters with chars and Xchars. We also chatted about emulation in RISC OS.
Peter also chatted about his new boiler installation with a Vaillant Ecotec guaranteed 10 years. Paul said his is an Ecotec and was now 32 years old and still going. Duncan got a strange fault on his system with an intermittent fault caused by some soot in a connection box. Peter had in the past used new coax cables with stress in the dielectric producing charge cable with nothing connected to it. Paul wanted to set up a Raspberry Pi as a print server. His USB was able to drive it. He put SMB on it to run from Windows too. He used "apt install SMB".
Some interesting items were discussed.
We have a new programme now and as always the social evenings are open to change. Also the meeting content my change dependent on future trends. If anyone would like to present a talk please let us know and we can slot them in. Many talks are open anyway with no defined speaker so feel free to join in.
|ICENI Future programme 2019/2020
|Raspberry Pi and Home Automation
|Windows and Windows on ARM
|Slide and Video Evening
|Gadgets and Party Evening
|Winter Social Evening: Suggestions welcome.
|Family Tree software
|XML and Json
|A Retro Evening
|AGM - and extras
MEETINGS WILL NOW BE HELD ONLINE BUT STILL ON THE THIRD WEDNESDAY UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. FURTHER DETAILS TO FOLLOW.
Our meetings are held at the Bourne Vale Social Club, Halifax Road,
Ipswich IP2 8RE ,
for a map and other details please see the website. http://icenicomputerclub.org.uk
Membership fee currently £15, visitors free.
"ICENI does not have any Insurance cover for computers or other equipment so please be advised that you bring machines to the club at your own risk."
However many household insurance policies will include cover away from home often with no increase in premium. (Ed.)